Week 13: Cincinnati Bengals At San Diego Chargers
- QuarterbackAndy Dalton is throwing the ball very well again after a mid-season slump. Dalton is making a solid run at getting invited to the Pro Bowl. He has completed 63.4 percent of his passes and has a 23-11 TD-interception ratio. Dalton has a strong arm, reads defenses alertly and has a quick release.Philip Rivers can’t seem to alter the Chargers’ pattern of heartbreaking defeats. He tends to lose his cool and get upset when his teammates drop a pass or fail to run the proper pattern. He has the instincts, accuracy and arm strength to turn things around, but the Chargers fail to make big plays when the game is on the line. They are taking their lead from Rivers in that regard.
- OffenseThe Bengals have explosive receivers, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis helps them out when he can unleash a solid ground game. He is a tough-minded runner who has gained 767 yards and scored 5 touchdowns. Wideout A.J. Green is one of the best big-play receivers in the league. He has spectacular athletic ability combined with strong hands.The Chargers have plenty of weapons, but just can’t use them well enough to put together many victories. Ryan Mathews is not a high-profile running back, but he has run for 594 yards and he is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Wideout Malcolm Floyd can stretch the field and he is Rivers’ best receiver. Antonio Gates can still make plays from the tight end position.
- DefenseThe Bengals have gone through an attitude adjustment after some soft play by the defense earlier in the year. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer let it be known that he would not accept that kind of play any longer and the Bengals are fighting back. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins has nine sacks and 36 tackles and is going to the Pro Bowl this year.The Chargers defense has imploded on a regular basis, giving up key plays at the end of games that almost always lead to defeat. In the Week 12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Chargers allowed running back Ray Rice to convert a 4th-and-29 play late in the fourth quarter. That can’t happen, but the Chargers obviously have no defensive leadership.
- Special TeamsThe Bengals have gotten solid special teams play throughout the season. Adam Jones is a dangerous punt returner who has brought a punt back for a touchdown. Mike Nugent is a solid but not spectacular placekicker who has made 17-of-21 FG attempts.The Chargers have expected to get solid production from return specialist Eddie Royal, but he has failed to deliver this season. That’s one thing that can’t be said about Mike Scifres, who is averaging 50.6 yards per punt and has place 21 of his kicks inside the 20. Nick Novak has made 11-of-12 FG attempts since replacing Nate Kaeding.
This is a matchup of two teams going in opposite directions. The Bengals are surging and have won 3 games in a row, while the Chargers can’t turn around their fortunes as they have lost 3 straight and 6-of-7. There’s no reason to think that either trend is going to change here, although traveling to the west coast has never been easy for the Bengals.